Teenage girls and women fueled nationwide protests across Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, 2022. The demonstrations quickly evolved into calls for the ouster of the Supreme Leader and an end to the Islamic Republic. They challenged basic tenets of the theocracy by removing headscarves required by law. The slogan—and subsequent hashtag—became “Women, life, freedom.” During the first three weeks, security forces killed at least 150 people—including girls as young as 16—and detained or injured thousands. On October 5, a senior Revolutionary Guards official claimed that the average age of the protesters was fifteen.
The victims have included schoolgirls, a video-blogger, a mother, a mountain climbing enthusiast, and a hairdresser coming from a dentist appointment. Some were shot by security forces at protests, while others showed signs of being beaten. “Mahsa Amini is one among countless victims of the Islamic Republic’s war on women,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. “The government is responsible for her death and decades of women being harassed, detained and otherwise harmed under the guise of this discriminatory, inhuman law.”
The regime has also detained many women activists in Iranian civil society as well as revolutionary insiders such as Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. It has picked up female students, a poet-songwriter, and journalists such as Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, who provided early reporting on Amini’s death. The following is a list of a few of the deaths and detentions amassed by Human Rights Watch, the Center for Human Rights in Iran, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Deaths (in chronological order)
Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl from Khorramabad, disappeared at a protest in Tehran on September 20. She messaged a friend that the police were chasing her down a street. Her family was summoned to retrieve her body from a detention center morgue on September 29. Her body was reportedly covered with “stitches and signs of physical assault.” The government claimed that she fell from a four-story building. Security officials reportedly took her body to bury secretly to avoid an emotional public funeral. Officials reportedly intimidated relatives to change their account of how Shakarami died.
Minoo Majidi, a 62-year-old mother of two, was reportedly killed by security forces at a local protest in western Kermanshah on September 20.
Ghazaleh Chelavi, a 32-year-old mountain climber, reportedly died in a confrontation between protesters and security forces in northern Amol, near the Caspian coast, on September 20.
Hananaeh Kia, a 23-year-old hairdresser who was recently engaged, was killed by security forces while walking home from a dentist appointment in Nowshahr on September 21.
Hananeh Kia was 23 - just a year older than #MahsaAmini. Yesterday, while walking home from a dentist appointment, she was fatally shot by the security forces of the Islamic Republic.
As the Islamic Republic throttles the internet, hers is just one face of a brutal crackdown. pic.twitter.com/w7VbnuNfb6
— Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (@IranRights_org) September 23, 2022
Hadis Najafi, a 22-year-old video blogger, was reportedly killed by security forces at a protest in Karaj, near Tehran, on September 21. Her family claimed that security forces pressured them to say that she died of a heart attack. Her sister posted a video from Najafi’s funeral, which received more than 270,000 likes in less than one week.
Mahsa Mogouyi, 18, was reportedly killed in central Fouladshahr on September 22.
Sarina Esmaelzadeh, 16, reportedly died after being beaten by security forces at a protest in Karaj on September 23. In a video after finishing school exams, shortly before her death, Esmaelzadeh said, “Nothing feels better than freedom.” The government claimed that Esmaelzadeh committed suicide by jumping off of a building. Security officials supervised Esmaelzadeh’s funeral to avoid a possible protest.
This compilation of 16-year-old Sarina Esmailzadeh’s vlogs is so beautifully done but also equally heartbreaking. 💔
Sarina was killed by security forces on 9/23 and now authorities are trying to make it look like she committed suicide. #MahsaAmini #SarinaEsmailzadeh pic.twitter.com/Qy9IoG56zw
— Holly Dagres (@hdagres) October 8, 2022
Detainees (in chronological order)
Leila Mirghaffari, a civil rights activist, was reportedly detained and beaten on September 16 in Tehran while protesting outside Kasra hospital, where Amini died. Officials charged her with “assembly and collusion” and released her on bail on September 18. Mirghaffari was detained again on September 29 after she spoke out on the mistreatment of detainees.
Yalda Moaiery, an influential photojournalist whose work appeared in Time and Newsweek, was detained on September 19 while documenting protests in Tehran. In Instagram posts, Moaiery claimed that security forces beat her and shoved her into a police van with tens of female protesters. “In the event that anything happens to me [while in custody] it is the responsibility of the ruling system,” she said. Mojaiery was reportedly held at Qarchak prison, a notorious women’s prison.
#Iranian security forces #arrested reknowned #photojournalist Yalda Moaiery while she was covering recent ongoing anti-state protest in #Tehran. Iran should immediately and unconditionally release #YaldaMoaiery. We will be monitoring the situation on the ground. pic.twitter.com/5QNWSXjiGm
— #WomenInJournalism (@CFWIJ) September 21, 2022
Niloofar Hamedi, a reporter for the reformist Shargh who had been reporting on Iran’s morality police, was detained on September 22 for her early coverage of Amini’s hospitalization and death three days later. She was detained in solitary confinement at Tehran’s Evin Prison, she told her husband in a telephone call on Sept. 24. “If it weren’t for her courage, the tragic incident that happened to Mahsa Amini would not have been reported to the media so quickly,” a colleague told Middle East Eye. Hamedi was charged with collaborating with the United States and “assembly and collusion against national security.” In October 2022, the Ministry of Intelligence alleged that Hamedi was a CIA agent.
On May 30, 2023, Hamedi's trial began. The opening session “ended in less than two hours while her lawyers did not get a chance to defend her and her family members were not allowed to attend the court,” according to Hamedi's husband, Mohammad Hossein Ajorlou. She denied all the charges against her. Hamedis' lawyer was not allowed to defend her.
Faezeh Hashemi, a reformist who represented Tehran in Parliament from 1996 to 2000, was detained on September 27 for “inciting riots.” In early January 2023, the judiciary sentenced Hashemi to five years in prison for "propaganda" against the government. She is the eldest daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In 1998, she founded and edited Zan, the first woman’s daily newspaper, which was forced to close in 1999. In 2009, she was arrested after addressing a Green Movement protest over a fraudulent presidential election and was subsequently barred from leaving the country. Hashemi was arrested again three times between 2009 and 2017. In 2012, she was sentenced to six months for “spreading propaganda against the system.” In 2017, she was sentenced to another six months on the same charge.
Elahe Mohammadi, a reporter for the Hammihan Daily, was detained on September 29 for her coverage of Amini’s funeral. She was charged with collaborating with the United States and “assembly and collusion against national security.” In October 2022, the Ministry of Intelligence alleged that Hamedi was a CIA agent.
Mohammadi's trial began on May 29, 2023. One of her lawyers, Shahab Mirlohi, alleged that she was mistreated during his time in prison, which included long periods of solitary confinement. He argued that her case should be heard in a criminal court with a jury rather than in the revolutionary court.
Bahareh Hedayat, a well-known activist, student leader and former political prisoner, was detained on October 3 during protests in Tehran. Hedayat had previously been imprisoned multiple times, including in 2020 for protesting after the IRGC shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines flight.
'Well-known student and human rights activist Bahareh Hedayat was arrested in Tehran ... Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times.'https://t.co/ODgLzuLlUM
— FiLiA (@FiLiA_charity) October 4, 2022
Connor Bradbury, a senior program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace, assembled this report.